What are the benefits of an international summer school?
Jen Munro, Founder and MD of ISSOS International Summer Schools, explains how international education is the key to changing the world and impacting an entire generation.
I spend my life going to business functions and events and the moment people find out what I do they always ask, “What are the benefits of going to a summer school?” This is a very easy question to answer and the answer always surprises the unsuspecting asker, they didn’t for a second believe there could be so many benefits.
There is however a bigger and far more important question to be asked: “What are the benefits of an INTERNATIONAL program/summer school or education?”
Recently, as I watch the news and hear pre-conceived ideas about the countries and the people that we deal with every day through ISSOS, does this benefit, this idea of young people coming together from all over the world, really hit home. I realise just how important, how vital, international education and international programs that bring young people together from around the world under one roof, really are.
“You’re changing the world, this is how we achieve world peace”I enjoy talking to people and telling them the incredible stories we have of young people who now understand that we are all connected. I enjoy explaining to them that we have students who have never met anyone from Lebanon until they come to the summer school and suddenly in the weeks that follow summer school, Lebanon or France or India are now relevant to them. The other day as I told impassioned stories of connections made at ISSOS to some business people, the lawyer standing next to me turned and said “You’re changing the world, this is how we achieve world peace”. Now, far be it for me to claim that we are doing either of those things, but if by what we do, we can have an impact on young people, on their thinking and opinions, and create an environment where they are safe, then in our way we are making a difference.
Benefits of summer schools
Educators have one of the greatest responsibilities in the world.The benefits of young people attending a summer program are far reaching; there are academic benefits, social benefits, increased self confidence, friendship development, minds are stretched, potentials increased and dreams made. It is the international element that I feel needs to be focused on however, because it is the one aspect that creates a greater social understanding, it changes mind sets, counteracts propaganda and these things combined could have a significant effect on how this world changes in years to come.
I have always said that educators have one of the greatest responsibilities in the world, we have the incredible opportunity to shape the thinking of a generation, to teach young people how to think, to encourage them to change the world for the better and so what better place to do this than in a international environment?
International education is the key
International Schools have existed for years and have created incredible year round learning environments for young people, but do they even realise the part they play in changing this world, do they realise just how important the international part of their education system really is? Possibly not, the gravitas of such a responsibility may overshadow the education they exist to provide, but they do need to acknowledge the significant part they play in creating global citizens who have a greater social understanding, who due to the exposure to so many different nationalities, have a greater understanding and less judgement when befriending peers. These young people have been exposed to so many different cultures, religions, thinking and ideas that it has bred a much needed tolerance among a generation that will need an abundance of tolerance, understanding and love to make the changes that are needed to create a more peaceful and safe world.
How international programs can change people’s thinking
The tolerance and changing of mindsets, that we, as educators desperately need to nurture has been exemplified year after year at ISSOS. In year two of ISSOS I taught the Youth Leadership Program, at the end of the three weeks I asked the class what they had learned during their time at ISSOS. An American student’s answer brought a tear to my eye, she said:
“Three weeks ago I had never met anyone from an Arab Nation, in fact I had only met a few people from outside the USA. I came to ISSOS with preconceived ideas and judgments about those from an Arab nation, these ideas were born from the media and uneducated chat, but now he (she pointed to the 16 year old boy Omar, from Saudi Arabia) is one of my best friends and I understand about his country and his religion and I love him and he makes me laugh. I will go home and make sure my friends know that the propaganda they see on the news or uneducated people taking badly about people from Arab nations or any other country where we judge before really understanding or knowing, is just not right or true and that I have a friend from Saudi Arabia and Scotland and India and Germany and Finland and they are people, they have a family and I am proud they are all my friends”.
I sat with tears in my eyes and thought “if I do nothing else in my life and if this is why ISSOS exists, for this one story, then that is enough”.
This is one story, but one of 100’s we now have of kids who understand more about different religions, kids who sit up at night and debate and challenge one another’s others point of view and make one another think differently. Just by knowing each other they widen their world view.
International education impacts teachers
“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to can change the world”Nelson MandelaI have been changed forever by the incredible young people I have had the good fortune to spend my last 10 summers with, they amaze me every day, their intelligence astounds me, their love and friendships make me proud and excited for their generation and I for one am better for knowing each and every one of them. I genuinely never knew the benefits the international aspect of ISSOS would bring, but it is the element of the business and of the program that I am most proud and the aspect of the program and all the other programs and schools that exists that makes the biggest difference.
Nelson Mandela said, “education is the most powerful weapon we can use to can change the world” – he was absolutely right, but I would argue that “international education can create a tolerance and understanding that will change an entire generation and change the world, starting today”.
I implore every parent, teacher, educationalist and young person to experience some form of international education, program or setting – it will change your life, your thinking and you too might join us on our mission to change the world.
For more information on International Schools: Council for International Schools
Sponsored article from ISSOS